Business Ownership and Being In Prison… The Lessons To Be Learned

jail cellFor many, the appeal of going into business for yourself is the freedom it provides—setting your own hours, working from home, paying yourself what you believe your worth (if the market allows it), etc. However, as evidenced by an article from, successful entrepreneurship may come from an imprisoned mindset. Mansal Denton’s first “business” was selling stolen historical documents, and it ended with him in a Texas state penitentiary. He shared the lessons he learned in prison that made him a better entrepreneur on the outside.

1. Let go of control

Control is an illusion, both in and out of lockup. In prison, guards run everything, from schedules to food to associations. The same goes for going into business for yourself. You can’t control competitors, market trends, or the economy. Relinquishing control can make you a much more successful entrepreneur. Denton said, “When I am too afraid to let go or detach myself from something, I invariably try so hard to make it work to my advantage that I precipitate the very event I’m trying to avoid.”

2. There are consequences for every action

Obviously, the consequence for stealing and selling historical documents was prison for Denton. However, once inside, he found that actions taken in the penitentiary had consequences of their own—like not showing the proper respect to gang members. He said these lessons translate into being a successful entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he’s mindful of what repercussions there could be given every detail of his business. “Laziness and egotistical thinking prevent productive decisions. By seriously considering every action with presence and care, you will avoid many negative repercussions that make your life inconvenient, or even drag down your business,” he said.

3. Accept yourself and be confident

Denton said his motivation for stealing historical documents was primarily due to insecurity (he wanted money to chase a girl). When it comes to going into business for yourself, Denton said, “Love and acceptance motivates you as well. Accept who you are and what you lack. Grow comfortable with your flaws and seek love from yourself as opposed to others. When you accept and love yourself, confidence will grow and so will your business. Suddenly you’ll stop acting strange around investors and journalists, you will take decisive action, and you will stop wasting your time and energy chasing validation.” Do the best with what you have in the moment.

4. Be vulnerable and emotionally open

Being vulnerable will help you connect with clients on a deeper level. Being deeply connected with people will also build a support group full of folks who will be willing to help you succeed. The more emotionally open you are as an entrepreneur will also make it easier to ask for help when needed. When going into business for yourself, “being vulnerable and emotionally open should not be a means to an end. It will certainly help you to grow meaningful business relationships and achieve more with your venture, but it will be more important to have support during the emotional roller coaster of a small business.”

5. Make the best out of every situation

“Prison sucks,” said Denton. “There is nothing good about it, but I made the best of the situation and found some positives. I had a library where I could read classics and philosophical books. I had free time to workout to stay physically fit. I had a phone to call my manager or business partner to organize my business.” Going into business for yourself can also “suck” at times. You may invest poorly, produce a product that nobody wants, or misread the market. But each failed business attempt is a lesson, and can be turned into an opportunity.

Of course, going into business for yourself is preferable to going to prison, but there are similarities nonetheless. Denton summarizes: “Remember, accept there are things you can’t control and let go. Take every action seriously, as there are repercussions for each. Accept and love yourself to build your confidence. Be vulnerable and emotionally open to connect deeper with everyone. Make the best out of every situation, no matter how negative.”

If you would like learn more about how these lessons can be applies in your business ,  call Coach Michael Stelter at Advanced Business Coaching, Inc. (262) 293.3166.